South Philadelphia pizza may be underrated across the country but if there is anything that South Philly is the mecca of, it’s undoubtedly the cheesesteak. In this titanic battle that pitted neighborhood favorites against heavyweights of the Philly trademark, two high-quality eateries tied for the Readers’ Choice award. Both Pat’s King of Steaks, 1301 E. Passyunk Ave and John’s Roast Pork, 14 E Snyder Ave. split the crown for best cheesesteak with differing journeys to the top of their craft.
Pat’s Steaks namesake sandwich can be traced back to Pre-World War II and has been a stable of the City from its inception. The Passyunk Square-based shop has reached a level of fame that if a Philly resident ventures past city limits, he or she will certainly be asked about Pat’s famous creation. Though the 86-year-old has its fair share of outside visitors, general manager and 40-year employee Tom Francano appreciates his local patrons above all as he went on to say “We get a lot of tourists here, but it’s always great to have all the Philadelphia people here.”
While established the same year as Pat’s Steaks, John’s Roast Pork is a relatively new player in the cheesesteak game compared to its counterpart. When John Bucci Jr. decided to join his mother in a co-owner role after his father’s unfortunate passing, he brought with him a complete overhaul on how cheesesteaks were made, as the 2300 block of South Rosewood Street native said, “When I came, we put 12 ounces of steak and 5-6 slices of cheese … what makes our steaks different though is we make them individually. We don’t have a batch of meat cooked and a batch of onions.”
Although John’s prides itself on quality ingredients, the co-owner’s attitude towards life that involves the appreciation of every borrowed hour is what makes his business special. Bucci is a leukemia survivor and has a close relationship with the “Be the Match” foundation, which is how he received a bone marrow transplant. He has pledged a free cheesesteak to anyone who signs up to walk at the organization’s April 2 5K at the Navy Yard.
Runners-up for best cheesesteak include Jim’s Steaks in second place, with Geno’s and Tony Luke tying for the third slot. — J.F.